Severe Weather Forces Ultra To Evacuate Day One, Postpone Day Two

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Photo by Alive Coverage

Artists playing at Ultra Music Festival are oftentimes picked up by the festival on private yachts that take them to site at Miami’s Bayfront Park. However, on Friday, March 22, some headliners were instead diverted to cars in order to make it to the festival. It was the first sign that things were about to go very wrong.

The weather report promised rain, but no one was prepared for just how intense it would be. While it had been raining on and off since the morning, it ramped up tremendously come 8 p.m. MainStage was beginning to flood, and fans were hiding underneath the coverings at Mega Structure, Worldwide Stage and the Live Stage.

By 8:30 p.m., one of the entrances back toward the yacht for artists and press was shut down. The rain was so strong that even newly purchased rain jackets soaked through. But still, artists continued playing. Apashe, who was performing on the Live Stage at the time, noted that “the storm made it so dramatic, I kinda liked it,” on social media.

Shortly before 9 p.m., Apashe and other artists were evacuated off their stages. A message came up on the screens along with an announcement over the speakers telling fans, “ULTRA ALERT SEVERE WEATHER – LIGHTNING & STRONG WINDS. For your safety, Ultra Friday is temporarily shutting down. Please calmly leave the park now.”

Outside the gates, the streets were already beginning to flood and cars were locked into bumper-to-bumper traffic. Headliners whose boats didn’t come were trapped in traffic, still working their way to the site so they could fulfill their contracts and hopefully perform.

“We were getting updates in real-time,” one artist manager on their way to the festival tells Pollstar. “Ultra was trying to make this thing happen until the very, very last minute.”

Getting out of the festival also proved difficult. Rideshares were unavailable in large part to around 55,000 fans all trying to exit at the same time. Roads were closed due to traffic being blocked from the festival itself and from the storm. Streets were flooded, and some fans who wanted to make their way toward Wynwood for the after parties opted to walk the mile-and-a-half rather than wait around for a ride.

By 10 p.m., the festival was officially canceled, a first in Ultra’s 24-year history.

In the end, Fisher and Chris Lake’s Under Construction set (which was also canceled during Electric Zoo last September), Hardwell, Armin Van Buuren, Armin Van Buuren back-to-back Oliver Heldens, Amelie Lens, Boris Voorn back-to-back Kölsch, Zeds Dead, Mastermind, Ophelia, Andrew Bayer, Blanke, Tank Shark, Justin Rabin, Liam Walters and Sebastian Rodriguez were never able to take the stage on day one.

“It’s the morning after the night before and we’ve woken up completely disheartened,” Chris Lake wrote on his social media accounts. “We’d both worked for months in preparation for this show and were so excited about having the responsibility to close the main stage on Friday. As two guys who love, love, LOVE our genre and style of music, we were proud to have a chance to show that house music had a seat at the table among the biggest headline artists in the world of electronic music. Most of all we are upset that we weren’t able to provide this experience for you all. We don’t play many shows together, but when we do it, we want it to be as special as possible. I hope Ultra will give us the opportunity to run this back next year for all of you.”

Zeds Dead was also unable to play at the festival. The duo made up of DJs DC and Hooks had planned a special audio/visual set primed for the Live Stage at the festival. “We were incredibly gutted not to be able to play Ultra yesterday,” they said on their social media accounts. “We put a lot of effort into putting together a special set for y’all. Was holding off saying anything because we were hoping we could make something happen but nothing came together.”

Factory Town, an outdoor venue in Hialeah, Florida, let the show go on despite the storm. According to fans who were there, the venue had been pumping out water until midnight and backstage had also been flooded.

On Saturday, doors were delayed until 4 p.m. The festival brought in mulch and needed to clear out the river that sat in front of the main stage. But, to make up for the first day’s cancellation and second day’s delays, the festival pulled off the difficult feat of convincing the city to allow them to extend an hour.

“On Saturday, the event was originally scheduled to end at midnight,” Downtown Neighbor’s Alliance (DNA) President, James Torres, and DNA Board of Directors wrote in a letter to the Miami mayor and city commissioners. “Organizers communicated with various stakeholders – including the executive board of the Downtown Neighbors Alliance – a desire to extend the festival schedule, so as to not disappoint the tens of thousands of festival goers and performers who had been negatively affected by the bad weather. The DNA board, after hearing from Ultra and the Bayfront Park Management Trust, agreed it would not oppose an extension by 45 minutes.”

“To Ultra’s credit, they achieved the impossible by getting the curfew extended – which no one expected to happen,” an artist manager tells Pollstar. “Ultra got dealt a terrible hand and were supremely unlucky. But, they pulled out all the stops and made it happen on Saturday. It’s impressive.”

For artists scheduled to perform earlier in the day, there was a lack of communication concerning when doors would open and sets would start. Even security was unsure of when the show would begin, some saying doors would open at 2 p.m. Thousands of fans stood outside the gates, few updates were provided via text message or socials on when the day may begin. But, by 4 p.m., the show was able to go on and nearly everyone scheduled had a chance to take the stage. With the extra hour, the storm-marred events were all but forgotten by Saturday night.